Ranked squad travels the country

Junior+defensive+specialist+Shelby+Clifton+serves+the+ball+in+a+%0AWarhawks+victory+against+Edgewood+College+on+Sept.+17.+Photo+by%3A+Kim+Gilliand
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Ranked squad travels the country

Junior defensive specialist Shelby Clifton serves the ball in a 
Warhawks victory against Edgewood College on Sept. 17. Photo by: Kim Gilliand

Junior defensive specialist Shelby Clifton serves the ball in a Warhawks victory against Edgewood College on Sept. 17. Photo by: Kim Gilliand

Junior defensive specialist Shelby Clifton serves the ball in a Warhawks victory against Edgewood College on Sept. 17. Photo by: Kim Gilliand

Junior defensive specialist Shelby Clifton serves the ball in a Warhawks victory against Edgewood College on Sept. 17. Photo by: Kim Gilliand

Justin St. Peter, Sports Editor

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By: Justin St. Peter

Sept. 21, 2016

24.

It is the number of straight appearances by the UW-Whitewater women’s volleyball team in the NCAA tournament.

If the No. 16 ranked squad wins the WIAC conference title, securing an automatic bid to the tournament as predicted by the conference’s coaches, athletic directors and sports information directors, it will be 25 in a row.

National championship-winning head coach Stacy Boudreau returns for her 12th season spearheading the UW-W program. The team has won four WIAC conference titles, five WIAC tournament titles and three top three national finishes with Boudreau in charge.

“The pressure we put on ourselves is always to win the WIAC Championship,” Boudreau said. “Being picked [as WIAC Champions] in the preseason is what we expect.”

With the ’Hawks impressive early season showing with a record of 8-3, the team is well on its way to making that goal a reality.

Six of the seven starters from last year’s squad return to the team that finished last year with a 31-5 record and was one of eight schools to host the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament.

Senior outside hitter Lauren Pfeiffer, a third-team All-American last year, is focused on making the team better rather than individual goals.

“If I were to get second or first team All-American, it would be great yeah, but I am really excited for where the team is going to go and where this team is headed,” Pfeiffer said.

Despite six returning starters, the ’Hawks also welcome nine newcomers to the team.

The ’Hawks began the season with the Elmhurst Invitational in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they went 2-2. UW-W lost to Gustavus Adolphus College (Minnesota) before defeating Cornell College (Iowa) on Sept. 2.

The following day, the team suffered its second loss of the season to Bluffton College (Ohio), but then followed it up with a victory against Augustana (Illinois) College.

Boudreau said she was disappointed about going 2-2, but she still took the positives out of the tournament.

“I think it gave us a good gauge of what we need to get better at,” Boudreau said. “I think it really guided us for the next week as far as switches and changes that we needed to make to get better for the next week.”

The ’Hawks swept the double-header home opener in straight sets against Dominican (Illinois) College and Elmhurst College on Sept. 7.

The team was then able to head to California for the Cal Lutheran Posada Royale Invite in Thousand Oaks, California.

UW-W won its third match in a row with a five set victory against Ohio Wesleyan College on Sept. 9 before falling to host and defending national champion California Lutheran University in straight sets.

“We definitely learned a lot in that match about what we need to get better at,” Boudreau said. “We really grew as a team on the court and grew as a team off the court.”

The ’Hawks were then able to end the tournament on a hot streak with a three set victory against Washington-St. Louis University and a four set victory against Pomona-Pitzer University (California) on Sept. 10.

Besides playing four matches in two days, one of the highlights of the trip for many of the team was the visit to Disney Land in California.

“Going to Disney Land was a great experience for us to be a little kid again where we are able to just go and have fun,” Pfeifer said. “We were able to see what each other was able to offer as individuals and relive our childhood a little bit.”

Upon returning to Wisconsin, the ’Hawks swept Edgewood College on Sept. 17 at home.

Going forward, the ’Hawks open up WIAC play against UW-Oshkosh on Sept. 21 before three matches this weekend in the UW-Whitewater Invite on Sept. 23 and 24.

For now, Pfeiffer said the ’Hawks are narrowly focused on the WIAC opener against UW-Oshkosh.

“As long as they go out and do their job correctly, there is really no reason to be worried about conference play,” Pfeifer said. “We know what Oshkosh has to offer. It doesn’t matter where they’re at as long as we play our game the Warhawk way.”